Saturday 18 October 2008

Has public philanthropy currency in our libraries?

The old Central Library on Arkwright Road has all the atmosphere of a grand old library in the philanthropic tradition and so it is not surprising to find that the cost was covered by a gift from Sir Henry Harben.

This further enforced when you learn that the reference library comprised 8,000 volumes of Professor Henry Morley's Library and a local archive collection including a survey of 1680 of the heath. After severe damage in 1940 and 1945 the adjoining bombed sites were bought for future enlargement, but in 1964 the library closed.

It is now a grade II listed building and serves as Camden Arts Centre.

Libraries in the local area have a long pedigree:
  • 1833 saw the foundation of Hampstead subscription library
  • 1887 started free lending to working-class readers from Stanfield House
  • 1891 created a specific reading room for users
  • 1892, Hampstead Vestry set up commissioners to provide libraries outside of Hampstead after the adoption of the Public Libraries Act
  • 1894 saw the first local public library at 48 Priory Road, Kilburn
  • 1896 was the start of construction of the Central Library on the corner of Finchley and Arkwrights Roads, designed by A S Tayler and opened the following year
  • 1897 saw the Belsize branch library in Antrim Grove
  • 1899 The Central Library began full lending library facilities
  • 1901 saw West Hampstead branch library was opened on the corner of Westbere and Sarre roads
  • 1907 Heath branch library opened as Worsley Road branch in the former school building
  • 1909 saw the addition of a children's library to The Central Library
  • 1910 Belsize was adapted from it's series of reading and reference rooms into an open-access library
  • 1936 Belsize was closed due to structural defect and a new building opened on the same site the following year.
  • 1940 West Hampstead branch Library was destroyed during the war and temporarily located
  • 1950 the West hampstead library moved to Cholmley Gardens on Fortune Green Road and the corner of Mill Lane
  • 1954 a new West Hampstead branch library was built as part of a housing development at the corner of Dennington Park Road and West End Lane where it continues today
  • 1964 The Central Library was closed and transferred to the new swiss Cottage site

Following a reburbishment by Tony Fretton Architects, Camden Arts Centre re-opened to the public in 2004. The beautiful and sensitively designed building combines the original victorian gothic features with a contemporary urban design to enhance space and light. The new galleries attract artists of the highest calibre, able to display a broad range of work including installation, film and video, light sensitive drawings and sculpture.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The old Kilburn Library in Cotleigh Road is a lovely little building that has now unfortunately been converted into a wimmens centre with all that that entails! Men are now barred from the place.
The new Kilburn library on the High Road does not feel like a library at all and is moe a place for kids to hang out and exchange video games etc. Such a shame"